Event Marketing: Football: it’s the only game in town

Michael Lang is president of Lang & Associates, a Toronto-based international event marketing agency with offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Atlanta.Kirsten Armitage is an account executive with Lang & Associates, and co-ordinator for the Event Marketing column. Contributions, ideas, media releases...

Michael Lang is president of Lang & Associates, a Toronto-based international event marketing agency with offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Atlanta.

Kirsten Armitage is an account executive with Lang & Associates, and co-ordinator for the Event Marketing column. Contributions, ideas, media releases and feedback should be directed to Kirsten at (416) 229-0060 or fax (416) 229-1210.

With the baseball strike and hockey lockout, football is the only professional sports game left in town.

Although the labor disputes are not likely to despose baseball and hockey from the hearts of Canadian sports fans, the situation does provide a distinct opportunity for Canadian football to build its profile.

Long-term benefit

The challenge facing the Canadian Football League, however, will be to turn this into a long-term benefit.

Over the past few years, cfl tv audiences have declined marginally during the regular season.

Competition for the sport audience has become tougher, particularly in Ontario, with the recent success of the Toronto Blue Jays and Maple Leafs.

The strength of the league is in Western Canada, where there is less competition for the entertainment dollar.

Interestingly, the Grey Cup continues to be one of Canada’s top viewed sporting events.

At a time when baseball and hockey advertisers are considering alternative programming, Grey Cup ’94 offers a channel to reach audiences comparable in male-oriented demographics and geographics.

In response to declining audience and attendance figures, the cfl and its corporate sponsors are fielding grassroots marketing programs to sell the game to increasingly distracted younger fans.

Football is Funball

For example, Gatorade has title sponsorship of the cfl-based program, Football is Funball.

Held in each cfl market and targetted at the eight-to-15 age group, the event invites participants on-field to test their kicking, passing and punting skills.

Age group winners from each city will advance to national championships held during Grey Cup week in Vancouver.

With the cfl aiming to enhance its profile, there is significant willingness on the league’s part to offer integrated, value-added programs that are leveragable from a sponsor’s perspective.

Official sponsor

For instance, Visa Canada became an official sponsor of the cfl for the 1994 season.

Included in its agreement are on-field advertising rights that are co-ordinated with Visa’s television advertising package.

Recent expansion of the cfl into the u.s. offers international exposure for league sponsors.

The National Football League provides extensive leveraging opportunities for marketers interested in reaching a targetted fan base, developing consumer and trade promotions, and creating employee or sales incentives.

Many league sponsors have built program extensions around their core sponsorships in order to capitalize on the popularity of the nfl.

As an example, Coca-Cola USA has teamed up with Dallas Cowboys star Emmett Smith for its nfl-tied ‘Monsters of the Gridiron’ retail promotion launched this fall.

This Halloween-themed promo will offer as premiums special ‘Monsters’ trading cards and team caps.

Upcoming events

CFL Grey Cup ’94

Vancouver is hosting the 1994 Grey Cup Championship Weekend from Nov. 24-27.

A series of ancillary events will take place leading up to the 82nd annual Grey Cup game.

The lineup includes: the Board of Trade Kick Off Luncheon, CFL Player Awards, B.C. High School Football Championships and the Chrysler Grey Cup Dinner.

The Grey Cup ’94 Festival Society Legacy Fund has been created with well-known wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen as honorary chairperson.

Net proceeds from weekend festival events will help support wheelchair sports and amateur football.

There are still a number of sponsorship opportunities available.

For more information, contact David Bremnar at (604) 683-2500.

Kids’ winter

A new winter entertainment and children’s adventure is coming to the Toronto International Centre from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

Targetted to the mainstream family audience, Kids’ Winter invites attendees to experience a wide variety of entertainment and activities, some familiar and some leading edge, in a unique Canadian winter setting.

Some of the attractions include interactive computer stations, public in-line skate fun, midway rides, and indoor surfing and snowboard simulators.

Corporate sponsors are Microsoft Canada, Compaq Computers and Toronto Life magazine, while media sponsors are cfto-tv and Z97.3 FM.

For more information, contact Andrea Watley at (416) 920-8868.